Microbiome 101Similar to that in your gut, the skin’s microbiome is a community of bacteria, funghi and viruses that trains its defence system, helping keep pH in balance, the barrier protected and producing essential lipids. “Over the past decade, extensive research has been carried out to understand the relationship between bacteria, skin cells and immune cells,” says EV Expert Nurse Anna Baker, from The Retreatery Clinic in East Grinstead. “These important interactions help reinforce and renew the skin barrier, strengthen immunity and reduce inflammation. Further studies will help us gain a deeper understanding of what makes specific bacterium friend or a foe,” continues Baker.
Face (vs body) offMuch like fingerprints, everyone has a unique microbiome, determined by genetic and lifestyle factors ranging from age and diet to geographical location and nationality. Each area of the body boasts its own individual microorganism ecosystem, be it face, underarms or feet. “The skin microbiome is highly individual with numerous factors determining which microbiome live where on the body and face,” explains Gemma Clare, founder of her eponymous London clinic and EV Expert specialising in skin health and wellbeing. “These include temperature of the skin, its texture and thickness, plus humidity and pH of the area, all altering that site-specific microbiome,” she adds.
The great disruptorsKeeping skin happy and healthy requires a vital and diverse range of microorganisms.
What happens when it’s out of whack? “An unbalanced skin microbiome alters barrier function, causing skin to be vulnerable against environmental aggressors and pathogens as well as increasing water loss,” explains Clare. This can result in inflammation plus dry, itchy skin and can lead to a variety of conditions such acne, eczema, rosacea and premature ageing.
Unfortunately, our environment plus many of the habits we practice on a daily basis disrupt this delicate ecosystem. “Urban and rural environments can influence it,” warns Baker. “Think airborne pollutants and cigarette smoke, high levels of inflammation triggered by stress and poor diet, high sugar intake and alcohol consumption. Aggressive exfoliation can be disruptive too,” she adds. Overly washing hands or soaking in the bath too long also cause havoc with the skin’s pH, barrier and microbiome, creating more sensitivity and inflammation.
Healthy habitsTo maintain a thriving skin ecosystem, barrier function and our own health, the right environment is needed for favourable microbiome to thrive. “Due to the myriad factors involved, I recommend optimising the gut and skin microbiome ecosystems using a holistic approach,” suggests Clare. “In clinics, this can include in-depth consultations and functional tests to create personalised client plans. With beauty, products that omit artificial colour, fragrance and sulphates will have a positive effect on microbiome biodiversity, as will shielding skin against environmental elements and chemicals with medical grade, mineral sunscreen to protect against UV, plus vitamins C and E and other antioxidants to combat pollution and blue light exposure,” adds Clare.
Stress can also effect the gut-brain-skin axis, triggering a chain reaction linked with chronic inflammatory skin disorders. Focussing on stress management and repairing the gut barrier will help restore the microbiome ecosystem. Do this by “eating a diet rich in a rainbow of colours and plant types and including pre and probiotics all support a healthy gut-brain-skin axis. While omitting the use of blue light in the evening alongside at least seven hours of sleep nightly will facilitate your skin and body circadian rhythm and repair process, critical to skin and body health,” advises Clare.
There are smart ingredients to look for in bodycare to bolster the microbiome too. “I recommend gentle exfoliation alongside calming, multi-tasking ingredients to protect the skin barrier, such as ceramides and niacinamide,” adds Baker.
Best buys for the body’s microbiomeVenn Synbiotic Polyamine Body Wash
Formulated with prebiotics and probiotics as well as soybean-derived polyamine to help nourish skin and maintain its oil-water balance. Combined with a low pH, the wash contributes to a balanced microbiome.
Gallinée Probiotic Body Milk
A patented, soothing mix of lactic acid, prebiotics and probiotics to help maintain and balance the skin’s protective ecosystem. Lactic acid also helps smooth texture while reducing moisture loss.
Biosannce 100% Squalane Oil
In a clinical study, this sugarcane-derived squalane oil was shown to increase bacterial diversity by 17.9% in two weeks, boosting the skin’s microbiome to reduce redness and lock in hydration.
Anna Baker, Aesthetic Nurse, Trainer & Qualified Educator
My name is Anna Baker, I am a full time Aesthetic Nurse, Trainer and Qualified Educator. I split my practice between working in a consultancy basis for...Book with Anna Baker
Gemma Clare, Holistic Health Skin & Wellbeing Expert
I am a Holistic Health Skin and Wellbeing expert with 20 years experience working in exclusive settings. My qualifications include a Science Degree in...Book with Gemma Clare